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“Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is a predictor of overweight and obesity (Must and Tybor, 2005). Physical activity is critical not only for optimal weight, but also for physical and cognitive development in childhood. Current recommendations are for children to engage in physical activity at least 60 minutes per day.” Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity (2009)
American children, in a well-documented phenomenon, are increasingly overweight and obese. This fact will translate into very real consequences in their lives in terms of health problems and shortened life spans.
The BikeTexas Kids Kup, sponsored by BikeTexas, Shimano Youth Series, and Clif Bar, is a great introduction to physical activity as “fun” instead of “exercise.” They provide at least 60 minutes of fitness fun every other Saturday in the Spring and Fall season. Kids ages 1 to 12 have an opportunity to practice riding and explore the joys of mountain biking. Bring a helmet, inspect the bike for safety, and bring an adult to sign the waiver.
Children gain confidence as they learn to ride the course, and their persistence translates into big smiles. One girl learned a big lesson at the BikeTexas Kids Kup at the Coldspring ride on April 2. She was holding back, sitting with her parents. One of the more experienced young riders offered to take her out and show her the course. Once she rode the course a couple of times, she was confident and proceeded to ride over and over. Two weeks later, at Pace Bend, she rode with the confidence of a seasoned rider.
The pictures of the Kids Kup tell the story of children out in the fresh air, socializing and riding. Their experiences will stay with them and influence their choices over time: they learned that physical activities are fun, and that they can participate even if they aren’t “athletes.” Exercise is hidden in the package as fun!
A Kids Kup type race is easy to organize for your child’s school or a neighborhood event. Set up a loop at a local field or park with the distance for the youngest riders that you expect to participate; the older riders can go around more times. For added fun, design the course to go around trees and through some small dips or bumps. The course can be marked using surveyor tape and tent stakes. Wrapping the tape around trees, poles and large cones is helpful in certain conditions.
Before setting up, have children test the course for difficulty and distance. Group the riders by age. A good number of riders for each “heat” is 5 – 15. As each rider completes their ride, they are awarded with cheers and a medallion.
Here’s a slideshow of some great BikeTexas Kids Kup photos from our Flickr page: